A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. You recently wrote that on lottery scratch-off games, the odds change as tickets are sold. If all the big winners are gone, later players have no chance at the jackpot.

You further said that slot machines are different, and that the awarding of a jackpot doesn't eliminate it as a possibility. The odds stay the same.

What about racino VLTs that are lottery based? Wouldn't your comments about lottery scratch-off tickets also apply to these?

In Ohio, there is very little information about the how the actual process works. But in most articles I found, it is stated that VLTs are essentially pulling a lottery ticket from a pool of tickets and scratching it off' for the player. If that is correct, then wouldn't it be possible for all of the top payoffs to be hit quickly and none would be available until the entire pool of tickets is depleted?

A. VLT, or video lottery terminal, is a catch-all term that applies to machines that work in different ways in different states.

If it's an electronic game that's operated by or associated with a state lottery, then it's a VLT.

Manufacturers don't always use that precise definition. Many refer to the "Illinois VLT market," though the slot machines in Illinois bars, restaurants, truck stops and service clubs are not associated with the lottery.

New York's VLTs operate in the way you suggest, as if each play is drawing from the top of a stack of scratch-off cards. Results are centrally determined rather than each machine having a random number generator. A very large number of machines draw from the same virtual stack.

On such a system, odds change with every play. The number of possible results is large enough, with a large enough supply of jackpots, to feed the system, so odds don't change very much after each play, but they do vary.

Most states with VLTs do not use that system. In many, the games operate in the same way as casino slot machines, with random number generators and all results possible on all spins.

Ohio appears to be one of those states. The definition from the Ohio Lottery Commission states, "A Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) is a stand-alone device containing a random-number generator. Each VLT is connected to a CMS system that allows the Lottery to monitor game play and collect revenue activity."

Note that games are centrally monitored, but results are not centrally determined. Each VLT has an RNG. Those are units that function as slot machines, not as distributors of virtual scratch-off cards.

Q. My wife's birthday is March 14 and mine is Aug. 22, so I always include 3, 14, 8 and 22 in roulette combinations.

I recently stayed maybe 30 spins, and still none of them came up.

How long would I have had to stay to make certain I won on at least one of those numbers?

A. You could never be certain one of your numbers was going to turn up.

Every spin of the wheel is an independent trial. Past results have no effect on future outcomes. Assuming the casino does proper maintenance and keeps the wheel in balance, the odds are the same on every spin.

On the double-zero wheels that are common in American casinos, the odds of the ball landing on any specific number on any given spin are 1 in 38. With four numbers, you have a 4 in 38 chance of one of them turning up, no matter what the results had been to that point.